New agency group small but has big aspirations
By Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette
The Potter Sports Group is a new Fort Wayne-based sports agency focused on representing professional basketball players. It may be small with only four clients, including Bryson and Brenton Scott, who recently finished their college basketball careers at IPFW and Indiana State, respectively, but vice president Garrett Martz doesn't envision this ending up just a boutique agency.
“Our goal, honestly, is to be one of the biggest agencies in the country, eventually,” Martz said. “We don't want to stay small. We understand that we have to learn the process and grow, and that we're not going to be the biggest overnight. Quite frankly, if you're a top-five pick in the (NBA) Draft, then you can work with a giant agency that's done this a million times. For us, it's going to be a tough sell. But I think as we grow and show what we can do, it's going to be a much easier choice for those type of guys. We have an advantage in that we have a lot of connections in basketball already, opposed to someone who just decides they want to become a sports agent because they're an attorney but have no connections in the sports world.”
The connections developed by the agency's president, Jeff Potter, and Martz come from their time with the Mad Ants. Potter was the team's president from their inception in 2007 until 2015, when the NBA's Indiana Pacers bought them, and Martz was the vice present of sales and marketing through the 2014 championship and a trip to the 2015 finals.
Potter, believes his experience negotiating contracts from the other side of the table gives him insight that few other agents can boast.
“I worked with a ton of different agents. I could see who the good ones were and why they were good. And I could see the bad ones and why they were bad. You kind of store that and think about that, emulate some things and stay away from other things in terms of representation,” Potter said. “It's a tough business to go into to. You've got these players who are rightly sensitive. There's not a lot of time in a playing career. You've got to move and get things going. I get the fact that there's urgency there and that they need to get some (competent) representation.”
Something Potter and Martz loved about their time with the Mad Ants was the relationships they forged with players.
“Both of us wanted to stay involved in basketball and this felt like a natural fit,” Martz said. “And I always enjoyed, through all my time with the Mad Ants, just staying in touch with the players and seeing what they're doing, if they're enjoying playing overseas or getting looked at by the NBA.”
Potter attended law school at Oregon and Northwestern – he was a prosecutor for the Cook County state's attorney in Chicago – and he's the agent of record for the Potter Sports Group, certified by both the National Basketball Players Association and the International Basketball Federation, or FIBA.
“I thought maybe 60 guys would take this (NBA) test in Manhattan, but there must have been over 300 people there. I couldn't believe how many people were doing this,” Potter said. “But they do a good job of making it a challenging hurdle to get this license and they're not just running off to the copier and saying, 'You can go be an agent.' It was good that way and I'm glad I went through the process and got all the licenses.”
He and Martz, a 36-year-old graduate of Angola High School and Trine University, know they may be judged on how their first batch of clients, including former Mad Ants player Marcus Simmons and Corey Henderson Jr., a rookie out of Tulsa, fare on their contracts. To help, Potter's wife, Julie, who went to Harvard Law School, is general counsel; his father in law, John D. Zeglis, retired chairman and CEO of AT&T Wireless Services, is an adviser; and Rod Wilmont, a former Indiana University and Mad Ants player, will help train clients.
Potter and Martz are making sure they are selective about who they take on.
“You might see a guy at the (YMCA) and say, 'We can get that guy and sign him.' But is he going to be able to be a pro?' If the answer is 'no' then that's not going to help him, and it doesn't help us,” Martz said.
Fort Wayne may not seem an obvious home for basketball agents, but Roosevelt Barnes and the late Eugene Parker became two of the world's biggest football agents from nearby Roanoke.
Martz said telecommuting and the ability to travel are essential. Potter added: “Brutal honesty to players. That was one reason I think guys liked playing (for me with the Mad Ants) and wanted to keep coming back all the time; I was always honest with them and they knew I wasn't going to lead them on. I hope all those factors help us have success in this venture.”